The Parque Maria Luisa is a large green space to the south of the city centre, close to the river, with hundreds of exotic trees lining shady avenues, and historic, fairytale buildings, with exotic touches provided by colourful tiled benches, and Moorish fountains and pools.
The park was the site of the Expo 29, which had Plaza de España as its centrepiece. Large enough never to feel crowded, the park is a delightful place for a quiet stroll, a kids' runabout, or romantic horse-and-carriage or boat ride. Taking a horse and carriage is a great way to see the shady avenues of the park; a more energetic option is a bike for four with sunshade - the front seats have belts to strap wriggly young children in safely. You can find them in the road opposite Plaza de España.
History and Expo 1929
For all its old-fashioned grace, Seville was one of the most forward-looking and progressive cities of Spain during the earlier and latter part of the 20th century. In the early 1900s, the government decided to put on a universal exhibition - the Exposicion Ibero-Americano, to boost morale after the loss of Spain's colonies in the late 19th century, and to promote Andalucia's industrial expertise.
The event was originally scheduled for 1914, with the chosen site as the Parque Maria Luisa, the huge expanse of Palacio San Telmo's grounds. The estate was left to the city by the palace's late occupant, the Infanta Maria Luisa Fernanda, the Duchess of Montpensier, and converted into a public park by French architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier. It was a magnificent and unusual setting for Expo 29.
Today, Maria Luisa Park is a paradisical half-mile of palms and orange trees, elms and Mediterranean pines, covered with flower beds and dotted with hidden bowers, tiled benches, ponds, fountains and pavilions. Now that the trees and shrubs have reached maturity, the genius of its French designer can be appreciated - this is one of the loveliest parks in Europe.
The park's centrepiece is the vast Plaza de España by Expo 29 architect Anibal Gonzalez. Many pavilions remain, in neo-Mudejar and Renaissance styles, within the park and around the edge. Some are surprisingly opulent, built in the last months before the Wall Street crash undercut the scheme's impetus - a good example is the stylish blue-and-white-tiled Guatemala building, on the Avenida de las Palmeras. For more on the pavilions you can still see from the Expo 29, see our page on the exhibition.
This rocky mound has stairs climbing up it, with a waterfall falling down the other side, with a tunnel cut through the bottom of the "mountain". At the top is a shaded pavilion where you can take a seat and enjoy the view.
Pavilion of Alfonso XII
On the edge of the small lake is a pretty round Moorish-style pavilion, in a state of some disrepair, but still romantic in a faded way. Ducks, swans and frogs can be seen in the water. It is named for the King of Spain at the time of garden's design. His son gave his name to the city's grandest hotels - then and now - the Alfionso XIII.
You can see various "Glorietas", small plazas, and other monuments dedicated to writers, such as poet Gustavo Adolfo Becquer -a statue of three women sitting under a tree - hopeful love, possessed love and lost love. Round the corner are two Cupids - wounded love and love which wounds. One of Miguel de Cervantes - author of the most famous work in Spanish literature, Don Quixote, who worked for a time in Seville, and was imprisoned here - can be found on Plaza de America.
Plaza de America
Towards the southern end of the park, two of the grandest pavilions - the Bellas Artes and the Mudejar - are used as museums. The former contains the city's archaeology collections - the main exhibits are Roman mosaics and artefacts from nearby Italica, along with a unique Phoenician statuette of Astarte-Tanit, the virgin goddess once worshipped throughout the Mediterranean. The latter houses the Museum of Popular Arts and Customs, with collections of antique lace and tiles, and traditional Andalucian craftmanship such as tannery, silversmithing and ironwork, with recreated workshops and life-size figures. In between the two pavillions is a beautiful plaza called Plaza de America, well worth a stroll around especially in spring when all the roses bloom.
You buy bird food for the white doves, which will come and perch on your head and arms - great fun for children. At the weekend you can hire go-karts in Plaza de America too.
Themed tours of the park are available, with night-time versions offered in the summer - see our tours page - such as A Night at the Exposicion 1929. The Ayuntamiento often organises events in the park - music, poetry and drama.
Nearby is the Royal Tobacco Factory, forever associated with the fictional gypsy heroine, cigarette girl Carmen, who toiled in its sultry halls. Today it is part of the university.
How to get there
You can take the Metro to Prado de San Sebastian, then walk through that park to the entrance. Alternatively, it's a short walk from the centre, from Puerta de Jerez, down Calle San Fernando past the old tobacco factory. Buses which stop near the park: 1, 3, 6, 22, 25, 30 31, 34, 37, 38.